Colouring maps at home helps some students develop much-needed skills

Mapping’s anything but busy work

Editor:

Re: Value of homework a judgment call, Sept. 15 editorial.

I am a secondary teacher in Surrey with 20-plus years of experience, 10 of them teaching social studies.

Editor:

Re: Value of homework a judgment call, Sept. 15 editorial.

I am a secondary teacher in Surrey with 20-plus years of experience, 10 of them teaching social studies.

Like many of my colleagues, I am aware of the time-management demands that modern families face and would never give students homework just for the sake of doing so.

In my subject, homework is usually whatever students did not finish in class, which encourages them to use class time productively. Sometimes it is to seek information on the Internet. Since they already spend a lot of time on their computers, they do not find this too onerous.

However, my letter is actually to dispute your comment that “colouring a Xeroxed map could be considered busy work.”

As September ends, I am completing my geography unit with my two Socials 8 and two Socials 9 classes.  There are some students who have a good knowledge of basic Geography, but many do not.  In fact, for many, their geographic understanding is dismal.

The concepts of latitude and longitude are extremely challenging for many. Although they may have a GPS in their car, they have no comprehension of the principles on which it is based.

When it comes to maps, even though the outline may be Xeroxed, I have to tell you that students find the details very challenging.

Many do not understand the difference between a continent and a country, for example, or that countries would be coloured different colours, or even that a city is represented by a dot. No kidding!

Printing the words is by far the biggest challenge.  Many students lack the motor skills to print neatly or even legibly. Copying the names with correct spelling is also difficult, and many need to be told that the names of countries, cities, etc. need to start with a capital letter.

My guess is that the reason for this is that they are used to printing on their computers, which also have spellcheck.

All of this difficulty could be avoided if I just asked the students to print out a map from Google Earth.   Maybe that’s all they need to know how to do in 2011?

I don’t believe that.

The understanding, concentration and attention to detail needed for a Grade 8 or 9 student to produce a good map is anything but “busy work”.

Ann Harris, Surrey

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